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sábado, abril 23

Some stories about films on expatriates

(Read at the Expat Telegraph newsletter, on 3rd February 2011)

1942 film Casablanca centres on the story of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), an American expat living in Casablanca, Morocco, during World War Two. Interestingly, a large number of European exiles and refugees worked as extras and in minor roles in the film. The critic Aljean Harmetz argues that they "brought to a dozen small understanding and a desperation that could never have come from central casting".

Humphrey Bogart also appears as an expatriate in The African Queen, a 1951 drama about a British missionary (Katharine Hepburn) in German East Africa during World War One. Bogart plays a practical Canadian boat captain who helps Hepburn's character, Rose, escape to safety in the Belgian Congo. Unusually for the time, it was actually filmed on location.

The film version of The King and I, a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical which was in turn inspired by a book, centres on the relationship between a British governess and her employer, King Mongkut of Siam. The film was well-received by Western audiences but is still banned in Thailand for what is considered to be a disparaging portrait of its royal family.

Real-life expat Orson Welles starred in 1949's The Third Man, an atmospheric film noir about expatriates in post World War Two Vienna. It's said that Welles protested so violently against shooting scenes in Vienna's sewers that huge replica sets had to be built instead.

The 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia starred Peter O'Toole as the writer T.E Lawrence during World War One. Its powerful evocation of Lawrence's conflicted loyalties between Britain and his Arab comrades won the film seven Academy Awards, but it has been criticised for its historical inaccuracies.

Mel Gibson took the lead role in The Year of Living Dangerously, a 1982 film about a group of foreign correspondents in Indonesia during the overthrow of President Sukarno. Gibson plays Guy Hamilton, an Australian journalist who falls in love with a British Embassy officer (played by Sigourney Weaver.) Like The King and I, the film was banned by the country it depicted, though it has apparently been allowed to be screened there since 1999.

Somerset Maugham's novel The Painted Veil was first adapted into a film in 1934. The film tells the story of Katrin Koerber, an Austrian woman who is forced to accompany her doctor husband to a remote Chinese province afflicted with cholera after she reveals to him her affair.

Franco Zeffirelli's semi-autobiographical Tea with Mussolini (1999) focuses on a young Italian boy who is brought up by a group of expatriate English and American women in Florence known as the Scorpioni. "These ladies helped me to understand my own city, my own culture and my own upbringing. If you were born and live in Florence, after a while you get to be fed up with it. They brought me to see things with new fresh eyes," Zeffirelli once said.

Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Michael Kitchen in a scene from the 1985 film Out of Africa. Based on the memoirs of Isak Dinesen, the film recounts the experiences of a Danish expatriate (Streep) as she tries to run a coffee plantation in Kenya. Streep developed her accent for the role by listening to recordings of Dinesen reading her book.

The Quiet American (1958), based on the novel by Graham Greene, tells the story of American Alden Pyle (Audie Murphy) and his relationship with Phoung, a beautiful Vietnamese woman (Giorgia Moll). On a deeper level, however, it looks at the tensions which led up to the Vietnam war. The role of Phoung in the film was actually played by the Italian Giorgia Moll.

Audrey Hepburn often said the film she enjoyed working on most was The Nun's Story (1959), in which she played a young Belgian woman working in the Congo. Hepburn met the woman who inspired the story, Marie-Lousie Habets, during filming, and they became close friends.

Oscar-winning weepie The English Patient is about the love affair between a Hungarian count (played by Ralph Fiennes) and a British woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) in North Africa just before the outbreak of World War Two. Apparently, Ralph Fiennes' burn make-up took five hours to apply every day.

A slightly more jolly expatriate experience is depicted in An American In Paris, the 1951 Gene Kelly musical inspired by the George Gershwin composition. Despite its French setting, most of it was filmed in California - explaining some of the slightly dubious French to be heard in it. In the producers' defence, they probably needed to make a saving on location - the ballet sequence alone cost more that $500,000 to film.

There's probably no scarier vision of life away from home than Lord of the Flies, the classic novel by Wiliam Golding which was first adapted into a film in 1963. It received an X certificate from the British Board of Film Classification for its brutal depiction of a group of British boys trapped on a deserted island as they descend into savagery.

This list just wouldn't be complete without Carry on up the Kyber (1968), which stars Sid James as a governor in the Indian province of Khabala, caught up in a local rebellion. Apparently, Princess Margaret visited the set of the film, but was very affronted by the scene in which Sid James's character writes a letter to Queen Victoria, beginning "Dear Vicky...